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Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Page: 1231


Mr GEORGANAS (HindmarshSecond Deputy Speaker) (17:27): Australians like to think of ourselves as being fair—being fair minded, playing by the rules and allowing a fair contest of skill or ideas. We like to think of ourselves as upholding that value of fairness and consider our desire for a 'fair go' in any contest a part of our national character. Some go further than this. Some think that there should be a home advantage in certain cases—that is what you see and hear anyway. I think that in many people's minds local industry and local jobs, as opposed to those overseas, should enjoy a slight home advantage. This has been Australian history for much of the 20th Century. This is a theme that is very close to the hearts of a great many of my constituents that I speak to in the electorate of Hindmarsh and of course the hearts of those of other areas around Adelaide, South Australia and, I am sure, the rest of the nation.

That contest between Australian products, primary and manufactured goods and those from overseas is a topic which gets a lot of attention in the community for two principal reasons: it concerns fairness and it is pretty fundamental to our individual and collective incomes—to all of us—our livelihoods and our survival. Over recent decades and certainly this century, most Australian governments look to fairness and look to a level playing field as being the goal for business and industry. There will always be factors that differ in the production, distribution and costing of manufactured products and primary industries. But, given these differences, fairness in the marketplace is the absolute goal. We want fairness in a competition between Australian businesses, and that is why we have those rules against practices which are clearly unfair which are enforced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, or the ACCC as we all know them.

Predatory pricing is where one business sells a product at below cost for a sustained period with the sole purpose of driving a competitor who cannot afford to sell below cost out of a particular market. That is against our rules, and we would all agree that it is very unfair. We do not abide by such practices between Australian competitors. We do not abide by such practices of foreign competitors either. For that matter, neither does the World Trade Organisation. Hence our anti-dumping rules, implemented by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service—our umpire.

Australia's anti-dumping rules and enforcement is necessary so our local industries and businesses are not disadvantaged or forced out of business by an imported product sold below the normal value and cost and dumped on our shores with the sole purpose of putting other businesses out of the marketplace.

This is a period when there is a very high Australian dollar and local producers and manufacturers in Australia are having a tough time against overseas competitors. This is something which Australian businesses have been battling with. In this period, unreasonably cheap competition can be especially dangerous to local enterprises and local businesses. Anti-dumping rules and enforcement are even more important in this climate. The government knows this and has acted.

In 2011 this government announced reforms to improve the timeliness of anti-dumping investigations, improving the access of small and medium-sized businesses to the complaints system and establishing a closer alignment of our systems with those of other nations. Implementation of these reforms is almost complete. Labor has also established the International Trade Remedies Forum to advise government on anti-dumping matters, and elements of the bill before us today stem from discussions between that forum and the government. As we heard earlier, the former Premier of Victoria, Mr Brumby, has also reported to the government on the Australian anti-dumping system and has made recommendations for change. Further improvements to our anti-dumping system have been identified and it is our absolute duty and responsibility to see them through. The minister has introduced the bill to further improve the responsiveness, the efficiency and effectiveness of the anti-dumping system and to reduce its costs and complexity for industry.

Through this bill we will establish the new Anti-Dumping Commission to investigate dumping complaints, to improve the effectiveness and the efficiency of our anti-dumping system and to make the anti-dumping system easier for small and medium-sized businesses to use the system and increase the resources, including investigators from Customs, to enforce those rules. We will also be increasing the scope or intensity of the potential penalties and remedies in instances of established dumping, which will better protect our businesses. The Anti-Dumping Commission will report directly to the Minister for Home Affairs and will utilise the system of Australian Customs and Border Protection. Australians will approve of these changes. It will be the same principle of fairness but with the help of a firmer and stronger umpire.

We will have further legislation, probably in the winter session, to enact the next step: changes to the size of penalties, the review processes, appeals, infringement notice schemes and other measures to strengthen the anti-dumping legislation. This is all about fairness and giving Australian businesses, Australian producers and manufacturers a fair go. And who could object to that? Absolutely no-one, we hope. This is a very important bill that will strengthen the anti-dumping laws and put more power in the area of Customs to ensure that people and businesses who are affected by the unfair practices of overseas companies and exporters will be able to go to a particular place and know that their complaints will be thoroughly investigated and that there will be stronger penalties if people are found guilty of dumping. I commend the bill to the House.